Poetry: Fragile Earth

fragile earth
fragile earth flickr photo by duluoz cats shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

This is part of a summer-long endeavor to write longer poems and spend more time with revision. The prompts have come through the National Writing Project network.

Fragile Earth

Where is the line of wonder
for those of us whose lives
tumble beneath the weight
of a fractured world?

Thunder beckons
this night, a flashing storm
of zig-zag jagged light,
a dangerous reckoning,
beautiful, eerily bright

and safe in this house,
we huddle to see
a generational tree,
born before collective
generational memory

its branches broken:
splintered into unrecognizable
splintered beyond belief
splintered as shadow, in relief

Change forces us
to reconsider:

Are we
the home
built upon
the dirt?

Or, are we
the roots
in a fragile

Peace (and dirt),

Poetry: Word Machine

I was trying to have some fun with another longer poem, where part of the prompt with National Writing Project friends brought to mind those poetry and art vending machines you see around (I saw one outside a museum recently).

I wanted to try to create a digital machine for the stanzas in the poem. I had some other grander ideas that I could not seem to pull off, so I resorted to Google Slides (there is a short audio welcome but you may need to click the exclamation point to hear it).

Link to the Word Machine poem (if embed is too small)

Peace (and art)<

Poetry: Walking the Trail

Beaver Brook Trail

This poem is part of a series of summer writing I am doing with an intention on revision and length of poem with other National Writing Project friends. The prompt was to notice the world, while on a walk or hike outside.

Walking The Trail, Noticing

It’s in the pause of walk and mind
that you take the time to notice
the way flowers bend to wind,
a dance to a song with grace –
you settle in, slow down, listening
becomes an act of gratitude

An aged wall beckons,
stone surface all moss and lichen
and rugged, a reminder of those
who long ago forged out farms here,
divided these lands with rocks
pulled up from this dirt,
a straddle between time and place,
and the original people here
even before them

A leaf free-falls, green with red fringe
and orange veins mapped at the center,
a floater from a branch above,
and you love the motion of it,
the tumbling – the turning, and how
gently it joins its brethren on ground,
resting for its next act as nutrient
to nourish the soil

Further on, the river bends, then breaks
beneath a small concrete bridge –
you duck to follow the flow of water
into the dark, cooler air, unsettled,
the shadowed curves of smooth walls
knitted with graffiti hearts and chalk marks,
the stone pathway slippery under foot

You are boot-jumping roots now,
in through the wetlands of woodlands,
mosquitoes whispering in your ears,
the pungent stretch where thick muck
grabs and holds you, and this green,
an illusion of stability, of , of solidity, of steady,
but it’s not, and never will be,
of here where the tricksters await

Then, just beyond the trail, trees open up
arms wide at the edge of noticing,:
bright summer light suddenly spilling in,
a liminal space between this wild,
and not, transforming into transitory,
made complete by an engine motoring by,
the quiet of the woods left behind
for another day

Peace (walking it),

Considering Text

I grew up in a text-heavy world and I had a job as a newspaper journalist in a writing-heavy field of work, but even then, changes in how text – words, prose, etc. — was being used by writers and readers alike was afoot. I remember when the national newspaper, USA Today, became an experiment (criticized and at times mocked in the newspaper industry, at first, as being a blow to literacy) of how to prioritize visuals before text, with its use of flashy charts, diagrams, photos, and other visual media. That criticism collapsed as USA Today turned a profit while many traditional newspaper lost a bundle, or closed up shop completely. My old newspaper is a shadow of its old self.

I remain an avid writer, working mostly with words, just about every single day.

Yet I have long been fascinated by how we can expand the notions of “composition” to push ourselves, and our students, to consider what’s beyond the idea of just text (as important as the written word is, and always will be, in my own mind) to include other forms of media. A book I had helped edit years ago — Teaching The New Writing — was an attempt to explore what composition looked like in classrooms where technology was becoming part of the learning experience.

Teaching the New Writing 9780807749647
It would be nice to say we have found a balance, where text/words and media/technology mingle in tandem for deeper meaning. However, in working with young writers, it does seem that words have lost much of its primacy in favor of image, video, gif, etc. There may be many reasons for this — attention spans, screen devices, brain development, etc. The Pandemic sure has thrown things for a loop.

I’m not naive in thinking that the way I learned to communicate with words and writing and text will always remain the way that my students will learn, so I have long balanced helping them develop the art of writing (stories, essays, etc.) with the art of creating media (image, video, audio, games, etc.) to show how one form can partner with the other.

This blog reflection stems from some thoughtful comments left in a post the other day where I shared a mostly wordless video (my Ten Steps walking video project) and from two posts (here and here) that Terry Elliott shared over at his blog, where he indicates his own explorations of ‘text’ as an idea. The graphic above (Text is Gravity) is a remix of the first lines of a poem of his.

In a bit of unanticipated convergence, I visited and explored a text-based Virtual Reality exhibit from Laurie Anderson that was, in fact, centered on text — stories, letters, and more — inside an explorable space surrounded by word and letter. It reinforced the notion, to me, of how text itself remains a constant in how we navigate and understand and experience the world, no matter the technology. Of course, Anderson follows her own vision, and not all VR is likely to be centered on text as her work here is.

I hope we don’t reduce our world of communication to only the visual, and I don’t suspect that will happen. But trend lines for short videos (TikTok, etc) and visuals (Snapchat, etc) in the younger generation — coupled with a decrease in overall book and longer text reading — is something that all of us, educators and parents and others, need to keep an eye on, and maybe work harder to demonstrate the power of words, as a means of thinking and reflection as much as for communication.

Peace (writing it loud),